I work in a role that requires me to get other people to do stuff for me. One of the ways in which I manage to do this is by offering to pay said people money. It’s not the only way, which is just as well, since usually they’d like to be paid more and I’d like to pay them more. But I can’t. I can only pay them if I get the investment approved, and I can’t get the investment approved if I’m offering to pay them too much. Still, we usually get by. And if not, we can the project because it’s a rubbish project and the business model’s clearly not working.

I’d probably get more projects approved if I didn’t include this “paying people” lark. I mean, I’m not sure how I’d actually get them done after that. I suppose I’d have to drag someone in off the streets. Maybe someone who was desperate. Perhaps someone who’d been out of work for a long time. I’d say “this’ll get you back into the ‘work routine’ and look good on your CV!” And then I’d tell them that actually, I was paying them something, because I’d be giving them their briefs for free and these briefs don’t write themselves.

This, in essence, is the business / moral argument adopted by Close Protection UK, who used unpaid labour for the stewardship of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations:

The company said it had spent up to £220 on sponsoring security training licences for each participant and that boots and combat trousers cost more than £100.

Oh, well that’s okay, then. Except it sodding well isn’t. If you can’t afford to cover your costs AND to pay people, then your business is shit.

We’ve known for a long time that globalisation has meant businesses thrive on paying somebody, somewhere, next to nothing. But usually this “next to nothing” is at least something. This is something else. My partner commented that it’s like McDonald’s stealing all their ingredients and then, when found out, saying “well, these restaurants, they’re expensive to run” (my partner used to work in McDonald’s. They do many things, but as far as I know, they don’t do that).

Anyhow, if this is the way we’re now running businesses, I am way behind the times. And I’d rather stay there. At least it requires some intelligence, ingenuity, and basic moral standards.